Amazon’s CreateSpace Provides a Safe Haven for Textbook Scams, Money Laundering, and Rampant Piracy
Createspace, in comparison, would better be described as the wild west. Amazon’s POD operation is supervised by neither person nor machine, which is why I have found a massive textbook piracy scam there in 2015, and why someone was able to run a money-laundering operation under Amazon’s nose.
And then there is the piracy operation that I just found today.
Early this morning Dave Zatz brought my attention to the plight of Jamie Lendino. Jamie is the editor in chief of a tech blog owned by Ziff-Davis, and he is also the author of Breakout: How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation (also published by Ziff Davis). That book is being sold through the Kindle Store and distributed through Createspace, and it is also being pirated through Createspace by an exceptionally lazy pirate going by the pseudonym "Steve S.Thomas".
The pirated copy of the book not only has the same content, it literally uses the same layout and even the same page headers (which include the original title). All the pirate did was cut a few pages like the copyright page, and then slap on his own cover (which was a graphic pirated from a classic video game).
Well, this person shows some taste by their choice of cover graphics. It’s Alternate Realty, if I’m not mistaken, probably also ‚copyrighted material‘. This is so insane.
— Acht Bits (@acht_bits) April 12, 2018
Given that the original book was published through Createspace, it should not have been possible to also pirate the book in Createspace.
All it would take to stop the piracy is a very simple measure where Createspace embeds digital watermarks in books when they are submitted, and then also checks incoming books for said digital watermarks. Any book that has digital watermarks that match an existing book would be held for review by a person.
This doesn’t require a brilliant engineer; a competent high school student – say, one that is on a BotBall team – could have coded the anti-piracy measure.
It is that simple.
And yet Createspace didn’t bother.
This indifference has enabled the pirate to distribute not one, but 11 pirated books through Createspace. A quick check of BookFinder shows that "Steve S.Thomas" has eleven books through Createspace, including:
- a book on organized crime, originally published by Springer,
- proceedings from a security conference, also originally published by Springer,
- a book on wireless security, originally published by Artech House Publishers, and
- a book on food safety, originally published in 2004 by Wiley.
I found the original books through the incredibly advanced investigative technique of Googling snippets from each pirated book’s summary (the summaries had also been pirated).
Createspace could duplicate that technique as an anti-piracy measure by hiring a college sophomore as an intern over Christmas break, and having them code it.
And yet Createspace hasn’t bothered.
It’s the wild west over there, y’all.
P.S. Amazon was not contacted before I published this post. I saw no reason to wait on a generic statement expressing concern when Amazon has demonstrated that it doesn’t care enough to fix the problem. When I reported on the textbook scam in 2015, I asked Amazon what they could tell me about the anti-piracy measures they were going to implement to prevent the scam from happening again. Amazon did not answer at the time, but it is now over 30 months later and the answer is obviously diddly squat.
image by Interval